tampabay.com

Online bids simplify tax certificates sales

By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published May 30, 2007


EBay meet Bidpasco.com. Government-sanctioned bidding for property moved into cyberspace this month with the introduction of online auctioning for Tax Collector Mike Olson's annual sale of tax certificates.

Gone are the days of gathering on the courthouse steps and waiving numbered cards at the auctioneer. Actually, they've been gone for a long time. For the past several years, the tax certificate sales have been held in the County Commission chambers at the West Pasco Government Center. There, 100 or so people came annually to bid for certificates on parcels whose owners are in arrears on property tax payments to Pasco County.

Now, the bidders can just jump online. To bid, investors need a computer and a bank account. The auctions close Thursday.

Winning bidders - those who bid the lowest interest rate for the certificate - pay the property tax for the delinquent owner. The owner must repay the bidder plus the designated interest or risk losing the property at foreclosure if it is in arrears for two consecutive years. Investors are guaranteed a minimum of 5 percent return, which brings substantial attention to the auction from institutional investors.

The auctions allow local governments to recoup delinquent tax payments quickly while providing an investment alternative for people seeking a safe return. This year, the sale began with approximately 20, 000 parcels and outstanding tax payments of $20-million. Parcels with tax bills of less than $100, or whose owners are in bankruptcy proceedings or challenging the accuracy of their assessments are the only delinquent properties not included in the sale.

Submitting a bid requires a 10 percent deposit that is refundable if someone else bids higher. After the auctions close Thursday, the winning bidders will have the remaining payment deducted electronically from their accounts. In the instances where more than one individual bids the same amount, winning bids will be selected randomly by computer.

By moving the certificate sales online, Olson has made the process more efficient for the public and less labor-intensive for his own staff. In past years, the sales lasted as long as five days and bidders would have to stick around as parcels were called individually, beginning from northeast Pasco and moving westward. Now, bidders can review the data on each parcel and bid at their own convenience. The auctions are grouped in nine batches this year with closings coming every hour beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.

The service, available at www.Bidpasco.com, is the final major piece of the county's tax-collection system to be available online. The improvement is a welcome addition.